New OEM-Friendly, Windows HMI from CTC eases system requirements, complexity and cost | Automation.com

New OEM-Friendly, Windows HMI from CTC eases system requirements, complexity and cost

New OEM-Friendly, Windows HMI from CTC eases system requirements, complexity and cost
InteractXä provides advanced graphics, easiest application and development process, at lowest installed cost for Windows HMI — without forcing OEMs to expensive platforms or IT services

MILFORD, OHIO (January 27, 2003) — Parker Automaton-CTC announces the release of InteractXä, an innovative Windows-embedded HMI system developed specifically for machine control and OEM needs, particularly in reliability, ease of application, and reduced long-term costs of ownership. “Windows capabilities make machine controls easier to use and integrate, but have been anything but easy on OEMs," says Jerry Koch, CTC Product Manager. "OEMs have been reluctant to commit to the Windows HMI environment. They've seen Windows adding complexity and cost, forcing them to less reliable hardware platforms, as well as higher-level programming and IT services. Instead, we set out to give InteractX the most advanced graphics of any Windows HMI, yet at the lowest installed cost and least development complexity for OEMs."

InteractX runs on Windows98/2000/NT/XP and Embedded NT/XP operating systems. The two Embedded operating system options provide full Windows functionality with a smaller software footprint that can run on today’s larger-capacity Compact FLASH disks. “Now you can run true Windows applications without rotating storage media that reduces system reliability in the rigors of production,” notes Koch. “We’ve designed our Windows HMI software for affordable platforms that address machine builder’s functional requirements, without having to deal with system features they don't need - dragging them into the IT world.”

CTC lowered application costs by providing unlimited tags, which can save up to $1000 and more on many installations. This compares with the practice of providing limited tags for a basic Windows application and assessing hidden costs for additional tags, Koch pointed out. In some cases, the incremental costs for tags and communications drivers can approach the original cost for the software, he noted.

Also included with InteractX are more than 30 standard communications drivers and an OPC (OLE for Process Control) interface. "We don't think you should charge for drivers and extra tags," says Koch. "We think these should be part of the standard product, part of the application essentials. We wanted to provide our customers with the full functionality needed to create an HMI application - one software package scalable to a whole range of runtime systems." Most exciting for those in the pharmaceutical industry, however, is that InteractX includes OS-independent 21CFR11-compliant features such as user lockout, adding unique users, password aging and inactivity timeout.

“InteractX also gives OEMs a Windows-embedded HMI solution designed around their current staffing and practices,” says Koch. CTC gave special attention to simplifying the HMI development process and keeping it familiar for OEM personnel. InteractX’s object-based development interface uses toolbins and icons, like those in office software, to make it easy to move from one function to another without disruptive dialog messages. "We created InteractX using a unique development process. We did 'user stories,' which identified each person involved in developing, installing and operating the machine control, then looked to simplify the application at each level."

An OEM-friendly “Pack and Load” feature simplifies project management making it easy to deploy HMI applications to a CTC PowerStation or Industrial PC, according to Koch. "The OEM can package multiple Windows applications and documents for simple download and installation to runtime hardware in the factory or remotely in the field. Our tools are set up so that field service people can use them. You don't need an IT specialist for lengthy file copying, complicated transfers and the manual installs typical with Windows systems," he says. "Our goal was to make application downloading as easy as for a PLC."

CTC's software developers gave InteractX the industry's most advanced and powerful graphics — vector-based, scaleable, 3-D shaded objects. “We've applied the latest graphic technology to HMI, while greatly simplifying the graphics development environment,” says Koch. “With InteractX, OEMs can not only meet market demand, but gain a competitive advantage. The graphics let them give the machine's operator interface a high-tech feel and functionality. The image quality allows graphics to be scaled to larger screen sizes and still look great, while keeping the file sizes small."

CTC also made the graphics exceptionally easy for machine builders to apply and customize. "It's basically a drag-and-drop process — very similar to using PowerPoint," stresses Koch. "We think OEMs can gain real selling advantage from this. It's easy to customize screen templates with the customer's corporate colors, logos, or special graphics." Similarly, languages can be easily changed, important for international companies, he notes. A change to a single library file seamlessly translates everything in the application. InteractX's open architecture allows machine builders and users to integrate other development tools and resources, such as integrated Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), OPC communication drivers and ActiveX controls.

In parallel with InteractX development, CTC upgraded its new PX Series PowerStation workstations to provide a bundled HMI solution for users who want higher Windows functionality along with a choice of 10", 12", 15" or 18" high-resolution touchscreen displays. Unique among Windows HMI developers, CTC offers InteractX bundled into hardware/software solutions, specifically engineered for industrial applications. "This bundling lets OEMs avoid the integration issues with hardware and software products from different companies, the typical practice until now with Windows HMI," says Koch.

CTC can provide OEMs (and their customers) with full range of Windows HMI platform choices, including hard drive storage with Windows 98//2000/NT/XP systems or Compact FLASH non-rotating storage with Embedded NT/XP operating systems. A unique dual Compact Flash design on these PowerStations allows Embedded NT/XP to run on an internal Compact FLASH drive, while an external Compact FLASH makes it easy to “swap out” InteractX application files. Separating the operating system from the applications offers several advantages, according to Koch. It allows easy maintenance, upgrade and replacement of the operating system by simply changing the internal Compact FLASH card. This flexibility will enable CTC customers to accommodate new operating system developments, even beyond Windows in the future, stressed Koch.

InteractX complements CTC’s original INTERACT HMI software, installed in thousands of applications around the world, says Koch. CTC will continue offering the original INTERACT package, especially targeting the dedicated HMI marketplace. "This combination lets OEMs tailor control solutions across the entire range of machine applications from one source and avoid the complexity of multiple suppliers," he explained.

About CTC Parker

Since 1980, CTC has been designing, manufacturing, and marketing both hardware and software to provide factory-floor, machine-operator-interface solutions for automation projects worldwide. In 1998, CTC became a unit of the Parker Hannifin Corporation (NYSE: PH), Cleveland, Ohio. With annual sales exceeding $6 billion, Parker Hannifin is the world's leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions for a wide variety of commercial, mobile, industrial and aerospace markets. For more information on INTERACT or InteractX HMI, as well as other factory floor automation solutions, contact: Parker Automation-CTC, 50 W. TechneCenter Drive, Milford, OH 45150. Phone: 513-831-2340. Fax: 513-831-5042. Internet: http://www.ctcusa.com.
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